PETRA, Jordan, June 10 (UPI) -- With the help of satellites and drones, archaeologists have discovered a massive monumental structure "hiding in plain sight" -- buried beneath the sands of Petra, the ancient Jordanian city.
Scientists detailed their discovery in the journal Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
"Even after two centuries of fieldwork in Petra and its environs, new discoveries and identifications of monumental structures continue to be made both within and around the urban center," researchers wrote in their newly published paper.
Satellite imagery revealed a massive stone platform beneath Petra's sands, lying roughly half a mile south of the ancient city. The platform is 184 by 161 feet. A series of smaller platforms open to a staircase that descends to the east. The side of the platform opposite the staircase is lined with columns.
Scientists suggest the platform is 2,500 years old, a remnant of the earliest days of the ancient city and possible a former site of public ceremony.
Researchers had noted portions of the structure before, but mostly ignored them as simply more stone walls -- a ubiquitous among the ruins of Petra.
"I knew something was there and other archaeologists -- who have worked in Petra for the last, God knows, 100 years at least -- I know at least one other had noticed something there," study co-author Christopher Tuttle told The Guardian.
Tuttle, executive director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, co-authored the study with Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham who specializes in finding monuments and archaeological monuments via satellite technology.
Petra was founded by the Nabataeans, Arabs whose civilization extended through Arabia and the southern Levant. At its height, the Nabataean kingdom controlled parts of what is now Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The city of Petra was annexed by the Roman Empire in 106 A.D.